Technology is already moving at a very fast pace, especially regarding satellite imagery. One can see proof of this by going to Google Earth, where one can nearly get a very close view, in many parts, of a given area. Clearly, if such images could be taken at such altitudes and is available for public use, one can only imagine what is in use in the military.
But according to a recent source, satellites are not just being used to spy on the public in individual circumstances, but could have much broader and long-term monitoring applications:
The dramatic advances in satellite imaging technology in the last 10 years have privacy advocates worried about 24-hour surveillance. Right now, US federal regulations help keep things in check, so that while commercial satellite imagery is powerful enough, for instance, to see a car, it’s not detailed enough to identify the make and model, according to a report from the MIT Technology Review.
Satellite companies say they keep a person’s data separate from any identifying characteristics, but Peter Martinez of the Secure World Foundation said that doesn’t matter.
“The risks arise not only from the satellite images themselves but the fusion of Earth observation data with other sources of data,” Martinez said in an email.
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Then there’s the sheer volume of satellites overhead. Imaging company Planet Labs confirmed that it has 140 imaging satellites currently in orbit. The report says this is enough to pass over every place on Earth once a day.
“Even with Planet’s highest resolution imagery (1m resolution), it remains impossible to distinguish individual people, car number plates, or otherwise identifying information. Our imagery is ideal for monitoring large-scale change on a daily basis. This includes seeing daily change across buildings and roads, forests, in agriculture, bodies of water and more,” a spokesperson for Planet Labs said in an email.
Meanwhile, satellite imagery is getting closer to a level that investors and businesses will want to exploit. The goal, Mapbox’s Charlie Loyd told MIT Technology Review, is to make a “living map” of Earth.
The publication points out that the observational satellites can do good, too. They can help farmers monitor a crop’s growth cycle, geologists better examine rock textures, and human rights organizations track refugee movement. And of course, other satellites do things like helping meteorologists predict the weather and making our phones and televisions work. (source, source)